The Atlanta Falcons have one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, compared to most teams they have solid pieces on the roster at every position. The Falcons need a couple of upgrades but what they need the most is depth. One of the areas they need to focus on acquiring depth is in the secondary.
We have spent a lot of time talking about who the Atlanta Falcons should draft in the first couple of rounds, however, not much has been made about what to do in the third round. The Falcons can and should pick up an important depth piece and potential starter with their third round selection.
The Atlanta Falcons will need to take a CB at some point in the 2019 NFL draft. They released Robert Alford in the off-season and let Brain Poole hit free agency. The Falcons are getting back starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen but both had season ending injuries early in 2018. Alford signed with the Cardinals and Poole signed with the Jets.
Alford was a reliable corner, stepped up when he needed to, and one of the reasons the Falcons were able to go on their 2016 postseason run. Unfortunately for Alford, he regressed in 2018 and had the worst season of his career. Alford played opposite Desmond Trufant for many seasons but given his regression and cap hit; it was an easy decision for the Falcons to release him.
Brian Poole was solid in his nickel role for the Falcons. Poole ended up going undrafted in 2016 and proved he is a capable nickel corner in the NFL. Poole had his ups and down during the 2018 season. At first it was ugly, allowing defenders to get behind him and missing tackles.
In the second half of the season Poole played much better and looked like his 2016-2017 self. Not sure exactly why the Falcons let Poole go, however a nickel corner is one of the easier secondary positions to replace.
The current corners on the roster are Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Ryan Neal, and Taveze Calhoun. For an early prediction Trufant, Oliver, and Wreh-Wilson are going to be on the 53-man roster. Trufant and Oliver will be the two starters and Wreh-Wilson will be on special teams and provide a depth piece at corner. Outside of those three corner is looking thin so they need to find a nickel corner to replace Brian Poole and find another depth piece at corner that can play on the outside.
Many fans are speculating Damontae Kazee is going to be the starting nickel. Kazee will be solid in the nickel but the Falcons still need to find another nickel corner for depth purposes as Kazee will be the next man up if anything happens to Keanu or Allen and as he showed last year, he is a guy that the Falcons have to have on the field.
The current safeties on the roster are Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen, Damontae Kazee, Sharrod Neasman, and Kemal Ishmael. This group of safeties is solid enough to where they will not need to take a safety in the draft. Ishmael also gives the Falcons flexibility, as he is versatile enough to play safety or linebacker.
The problem is this corner class is a weaker group in terms of talent compared to the last couple of drafts. It is no secret Dan Quinn likes tall, physical corners in his defensive scheme. The Falcons will likely need to target a guy that can play the nickel and a guy that can play on the outside. The Falcons do not need to use a high draft pick on a corner.
Many UGA fans will want the Falcons to draft Deandre Baker in the first round, which would be a terrible move because of other more important team needs. They should use one of their later round picks to find depth and let them develop.
Jamal Peters, Mississippi State
Jamal Peters from Mississippi State could be a solid depth piece for the Falcons in the later rounds and perfectly fits what Dan Quinn likes with corners. Peters is a tall, physical corner at 6’2 218 pounds. On most draft boards he is projected to go in the 6th or 7th round. Many scouts think Peters could thrive in a zone coverage scheme with a good defensive minded coach. That is exactly what the Falcons have with Dan Quinn so this seems like a no-brainer pick.
However, every draft prospect has weaknesses and Peters is man coverage and press coverage. Peters will be a good option to play on the outside if anything happens to Trufant or Oliver. As long as Peters is not put into man coverage situations, he will thrive in Dan Quinn’s scheme.
Jamel Dean, Auburn
Jamel Dean from Auburn could be another late round option for the Falcons. Dean is also a tall, physical corner who comes in at 6’1 and weighs 215 pounds; we all know how much Dan Quinn loves the tall physical CB’s. He had an impressive combine running and 4.30 in the 40 and having a 41.0 vertical jump. Dean is athletic corner and could be a draft gem for a team. The main concern with Dean is his awareness and football IQ. This will be something a team would have to develop with him and the Falcons have the coaching staff to do so.
Dean also provides special teams value, which is an important trait for a depth corner. Right now most draft boards have him as a 5-7 round pick. Dean has been getting some buzz lately but if he is available for the Falcons in the later rounds they should consider drafting him.
Nickel is another important role the Falcons need to consider in the draft. Kazee and Allen are both capable of playing nickel or FS and for the 2019 season we will likely see one play FS and the other play nickel. The Falcons still need to consider taking a nickel to fill that role for depth reasons in case there is an injury.
Kris Boyd, Texas
The ideal pick for the Falcons is someone who can fill that need at nickel and provide special teams value. A good option for this is Texas CB Kris Boyd. Boyd is listed at 5’11 and weighs 201 pounds. Boyd best trait is run support, which is perfect for a nickel corner. His weaknesses are man coverage and that will hopefully not be an issue in Dan Quinn’s scheme. Boyd had an impressive combine running a 4.45 in the 40 and the most bench reps of any corner at 19 reps.
The Falcons can benefit greatly from having more depth at corner. This will instantly help the special teams and fans do not have to lose hope in the season if there is an injury.